During the month of February, 2011, the Central Rift veterinary unit managed to attend to all the reported wildlife cases within the Mara ecosystem and Naivasha area. Some of the activities included treatment of endangered species such as cheetahs and elephants for mange infestation and injuries respectively. Lion cubs were also treated for mange infection in Olkiombo area of Maasai Mara and other cases of snared wildlife in Naivasha and Lake Nakuru NP. Investigations into cases of fish mortalities along the Mara river and elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV) studies were some of the main veterinary activities in Mara in February, 2011. Detailed reports of all the animal cases attended to during February are highlighted in the report below.
Treatment of an adult male cheetah (Acynonyx jubatus) of mange infestation in Olare Orok
Conservancy, Maasai Mara
The cheetah was sighted by tourists in Olare Orok Wildlife Conservancy on the Eastern boundary of Maasai Mara NR; it was heavily infested with mange infection. It had quite extensive alopecia, encrustation, and intensive pruritis, restless, emaciated and had become weak; it also had dermatitis on the ears, lower abdomen and under the tail. It had an abrasive wound on the medial side of the elbow joint, the wound had been caused by constant itching and scratching of the joint due to irritations caused by mange parasites. It had to be treated immediately and samples collected for diagnosis before the condition worsened or the disease transmitted to other cheetahs.
It was found lying under the shrubs and was darted from a close distance using 150mgs of ketamine combined with 1.5mgs of medetomidine hydrochloride on the right thigh; it took about 7 minutes for the drug to take effect. It was then blindfolded and transferred to a cool shade under a tree from where it was examined and treated. Both the eyes were covered with opticlox® eye ointment to avoid desiccation and conjunctivitis while it was recumbent.
Examination and treatment
The cheetah was in a poor body condition and the vital physiological parameters were monitored and recorded as follows; Respiration rate 16 cycles/minute, deep and regular, pulse rate of 90 beats/minute, strong and regular, body temperature was 38 degrees Celsius, all the mucosal membranes had pink normal colour and capillary refill time (CRT) was 2 seconds. It had some external parasites such as ticks and lion flies on the skin.
The cheetah had extensive loss of hair on several parts of the body particularly the head, face, neck, lower abdomen and legs.
The wound on the elbow joint was well debrided and cleaned using clean water and then 10% hydrogen peroxide; it was also topically treated using a tincture of iodine applied on it and then sprayed by oxytetracycline spray. Mange was treated using 6mls of 1% Ivermectin administered through the subcutaneous route, skin lesions treated by iodine and oxytetracycline spray. The animal was further treated using antibiotics (Amoxycillin) Betamox®, multivitamins and dexamethason.
Skin scrapping samples were collected and kept in 70% ethanol for further laboratory analysis. Blood samples were collected in EDTA coated tubes and plain tubes coated with clot retractor and kept in a cool box, tissue and hair samples kept in ethanol solution and ectoparasites such as ticks and lion flies collected and stored in 70% ethanol. These samples have been processed and stored in KWS lab for further analysis and for health monitoring purposes.
After treatment, the animal was revived from anaesthesia after about 60 minutes using 40mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly; it took about 10 minutes to rise up and got into the nearby shrubs. It was to be monitored on a daily basis by security rangers who would report on its progress regularly to the veterinarian just in case it would require further treatment or any assistance to enhance its recovery.
Elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV) study in Maasai Mara
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Veterinary Department is collaborating with the Princeton University in molecular studies of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (EEHV) in free ranging African elephants of Kenya. The research study involves collection of biological samples from elephants with EEHV suspect lesions for identification, isolation and molecular characterization of various EEHV sub-species in Kenyan elephants. The virus has been implicated in several elephant illnesses and mortalities in American Zoos and Asian elephants; it could also be the cause of illness or mortalities in African elephants hence the basis of this study.
The study involves collection of tissue samples, whole blood, serum and swabs from elephants with swellings or nodules similar to those cased by EEHV infection. Three elephants with suspect lesions were captured and sampled in Maasai Mara in February, 2011; they included an elephant calf and mother from Keekorok area and a sub-adult female elephant from Mara Triangle.
Investigations on the deaths of fish in Mara River
During the month of February 2011, there were reports of fish dying in Mara River; three different fish species were affected, the deaths were concentrated at the ‘Mara Old bridge”, Olonana area, Mara Buffalo area and near Little Governors area. It was a one time mass-die-off of fish that lasted only one day after a heavy down-pour.
Postmortem examinations revealed extensive haemorrhages and congestion of the liver and intestines, blood oozing from anus and mouth. The deaths were suspected to have been caused by pesticide poisoning due to pesticides washed downstream from the nearby wheat farms.
Fish samples, water and soil samples were collected from the different locations of the river and submitted to the Government chemist for toxicological analysis, results are still awaited.
Treatment of an adult male elephant speared on the left abdomen in Kissinger area, Maasai Mara NR.
This was a case of an adult male elephant sighted with a spear-head stuck on the abdomen. It was found grazing alone in open plains of Maasai Mara, Kissinger area. It had started loosing much of its body condition due to pain and inadequate feeding due to pain and restricted movement. The elephant was then captured by chemical immobilization through darting, spear removed and resulting wound treated successfully.
Chemical immobilization and restrain
The elephant was darted from a vehicle using 18mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 1500 i.u of hyaluronidase on the right hind thigh, the drug took effect after about 10 minutes but the elephant still could not go down and it had to be re-darted to achieve adequate immobilization.
Examination and treatment
The spear-head was pulled out of the abdomen using a pair of pliers, it had penetrated deep into the stomach and food contents from the stomach leaked out through the wound. The wound was examined and probed using a long tissue forceps and swabs then cleaned with a lot of water, lots of exudates and necrotic tissue debris were squeezed out and further debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide and finally treated with a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. It was further treated using long-acting Betamox® antibiotic administered intramuscularly.
Revival of anaesthesia
The narcosis was revived using 60mgs of diprenorphine Hcl administered through the superficial ear-veins. It was to be monitored for sometime just incase it will require further treatment. It had good chances of recovery from the injury if the wound would not progress into peritonitis.
Treatment of lion cubs with skin infection in Olkiombo area, Maasai Mara
Three lion cubs were sighted with extensive skin infection in Olkiombo area of Maasai Mara. The cubs were alopecic (loss of hair), emaciated and generally weak, they were approximately 3 months old and belonged to one lioness and were still suckling. The cubs were infected mostly on the abdomen, head, neck, limbs and tail. One of the cubs was captured physically when the mother went hunting and they were left alone.
Examination and treatment
The cub was examined; alopecia was marked with crusts and scabs on most parts of the body. They were severely emaciated and weak, body temperature and pulse were normal. They were suspected to be suffering from either mange infestation or mineral deficiencies particularly copper.
The cub was treated using 1% ivomectin, antibiotics and multivitamins, skin scrapping samples were collected and stored in 70% alcohol for further analysis and confirmation of diagnosis. It was further treated using tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray on the alopecic patches and scrapped areas. After treatment the cub was released to join the rest of the pride for safety. The other 2 cubs took off and disappeared before being treated.
The treated cub had better chances of recovery but there is need for a repeat treatment within the next two weeks if the infection will still persist. Mange is a contagious disease and there is the real danger of the infected lions transmitting the infection to other healthy lions in the pride. So the security rangers in that area were requested to monitor the movements of the affected pride and report to the veterinarian for immediate treatment.
Removal of a snare and treatment of a snared buffalo in Lake Nakuru NP.
An adult male buffalo was sighted with a tight wire snare cutting through the shoulder/brisket muscles at Muya Courseway in Lake Nakuru NP. The wire had cut deep into the muscles causing a very deep and extensive wound over the shoulder.
The buffalo was captured by darting using 5mgs of etorphine combined with 30mgs of xylazine on the left thigh, it became recumbent after about 5 minutes, the wire was quickly removed and the wound cleaned and treated with antibiotics. It was then revived from anaesthesia using 12mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of atipamezole hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein.
The buffalo had good chances of recovery after the removal of the wire and treating the wound, the only risk and threat to its life is the progression of the wound to cause septiceamia, but it was still strong enough to able to recover after treatment.
Removal of a snare and treatment of an adult male eland in Lentolia farm, Naivasha
This was a case of an adult male eland that was trapped by a tight wire snare cutting through the fetlock joint of the right hind leg in Lentolia farm; the eland had difficulties of movement and had started loosing body condition due to constant pain and inadequate feeding. The wire had caused an injury to the leg.
The eland was captured by darting using 13mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 40mgs of xylazine hydrochloride on the right shoulder muscles. It took about 4 minutes to become recumbent. A blindfold was used to help cover the eyes and opticlox eye ointment applied on both the eyes.
The wire was extracted and cut off using a wire cutter and the resulting wound was treated using hydrogen peroxide and a tincture of iodine then sprayed with oxytetracycline spray. Long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotics and dexamethasone was also administered intramuscularly to take care of bacterial infection and ensuing inflammation.
The animal was then revived from anaesthesia using 36mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of atipamezole hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein and it rose up after 2 minutes. Prognosis was good after the removal of the snare and treating the wound which was not so severe.
We acknowledge the great support from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust towards provision of wildlife veterinary services in the area.
Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele